Local Leaders Warn of ‘Living Room Spread’ as Second Wave Worsens

A testing site in Ulster County during the pandemic’s first wave.

In Brief – County Executives and Health Commissioners from the Mid-Hudson Valley pleaded with residents to stringently follow health guidelines as the pandemic’s second wave begins to wash over the region.

The Mid-Hudson Region’s daily positivity rate continues to rise, reaching 3.9 percent Tuesday, and active cases continue to pile up. More than 7,300 people are currently known to be infected with the coronavirus in the 8 counties of the Hudson Valley, according to an analysis by The River, a number that has doubled in the past two weeks.

The leaders of Ulster, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess counties mentioned several ways the virus entered the region, but emphasized it was now primarily spreading in communities through “living room spread.”

Most recent cases sprung not from large events at public venues, but in small gatherings at people’s homes, according to Dutchess County Health Commissioner Dr. Anil K. Vaidan, an infectious disease expert.

Orange County Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman said people generally let their guard down around loved ones but mask-wearing and social distancing should be practiced around anyone not in one’s immediate household.

Many people also spread the virus by appearing in public while mildly symptomatic, Gelman said, thinking the disease was allergies or the sniffles. She reminded residents people spread the disease most readily early on, while they are feeling normal or mildly ill.

As an illustration of how small gatherings can spread the virus, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan referred to a small party with a little more than 20 people, all from three families, held on Halloween. Four of the children were unknowingly infected, and the small event has since led to at least 15 infections, touching a college and three schools.

Putnam County Deputy County Executive Tom Feighery, who was not wearing a mask most of the time he was visible at the virtual press conference, said most new cases in the county spring from gatherings or parties at homes.

“There’s definitely pandemic fatigue,” he said while sitting bare faced across the table from his health commissioner.

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus told residents not to fall into the trap of thinking the virus impacted only the elderly. Two people who recently died of COVID-19 in his county were in their twenties.

Dr. Gelman also said residents should get flu shots. Though early evidence from the southern hemisphere suggested our area may have a mild flu season, having the flu makes one more susceptible to COVID-19 infection, and each disease creates complications with the other.

The county officials all urged residents to hunker down.

“We are just at the beginning of this second wave,” Dr. Vaidan said. “It’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon.”

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